As your baby grows into a toddler, sleep is still a huge priority. For most toddlers and preschoolers, this includes an afternoon nap. Let me show you some sample toddler sleep schedules and answer common questions parents ask about naps for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children.
Most toddlers will stop napping between 3 and 4 years old. Current research shows that “less than 2.5% of toddlers will cease napping prior to age 2, while 94% cease napping by age 5.” I find most toddlers do best with maintaining that nap until they’re about 4 years old.
If you’re finding that keeping a nap is negatively affecting night sleep for your little one, it may be time to drop your toddler’s nap from their sleep schedule. Ask yourself:
Does your toddler or preschooler take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at bedtime?
Are they taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at nap or refusing to nap?
Is your toddler having early morning wakings?
Is your little one waking in the night and struggling to fall back to sleep?
Is your toddler content during the time they should be sleeping (e.g. calmly talking or singing to themselves in their crib or bed)?
Has your toddler been doing this for at least 5 days in a row?
If the answer is “yes” to these questions, it may be time to consider dropping your toddler or preschooler’s nap. BUT before you take this step, consider:
Is your toddler or preschooler going through any developmental progressions that could be affecting their nap and/or night sleep?
Is your toddler or preschooler overtired?
If your toddler is showing signs of overtiredness, we want to try to keep the nap. When you’re trying to determine if your toddler is overtired, here are some signs to look for:
Most toddlers, preschoolers, and young children do best with a bedtime between 7:00 and 8:00 pm. Studies show that a bedtime before 9:00 pm leads to better sleep, and they also found that little ones have better behavioral outcomes with age-appropriate sleep schedules.
When you set a bedtime for your toddler, it will typically need to be 4.5-5.5 hours from the end of their afternoon nap, so keep this in mind both for timing naps and aiming for bed. Most 2 year olds can only tolerate about 4.5 hours. However, as they get older, that wake window before bed can stretch to about 5 or 5.5 hours.
Yes. If your toddler has a nap that’s too long, they may not be tired enough to fall asleep at bedtime. Toddlers and preschoolers typically need between 10-14 hours of total sleep – including naps – in a 24-hour period. Ideally, 10-12 of those hours are restorative night sleep, while the rest is your toddler’s nap.
When your toddler is ready to drop a nap, we can transition them to quiet time. Quiet time is a helpful tool when you let go of naps. It maintains a restorative break in your child’s day by giving them the choice to rest or play independently. Your toddler or preschooler may even surprise you by taking an occasional nap during quiet time when their little body needs extra rest.
An added benefit of quiet time is that independent play helps develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Quiet time also gives parents a break and time to recharge. (Sometimes, we need quiet time just as much as our little ones!)
When you decide to transition to quiet time, I find it’s best to offer it at about the same time each day since toddlers and preschoolers thrive on predictability and routine.
What is a sample schedule for a 2 year old?
I have two sample schedules to share with you! Just remember, these are just examples and are not meant to be followed exactly.